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This review is taken from PN Review 105, Volume 22 Number 1, September - October 1995.

LORD WEARY AND LADY BOUNTIFUL RAYMOND FRIEL, Seeing the River (Polygon) £6.95
JUDITH KAZANTZIS, Selected Poems, 1977-1992 (Sinclair Stevenson) £10.99

Raymond Friel is the kind of energetic poet who can find subject matter in anything, and with some audadty he turns it into poems for us. This is an enjoyable first full length collection by a writer who should not be categorised by this volume, as there is more than one direction open to his fluent style. The ground he covers is not unusual - the harshness of decayed towns, family anecdotes, London isolation, disheartening 'day jobs' but what saves Friel is his self-assurance and belief in himself as a poet. Something of this attitude comes across in his confessional style; his family, his picture of himself, his life. In the hands of a less interesting poet this would be merely self-indulgent and boring, but Friel has an instinct for form and lively language so that the poem goes somewhere. Self-centred he may seem, but these poems are not a 'look at me' exercise.

He can create comic images which do not detract from the overall message - his ship-stuffed Clydeside, very similar to W.S. Graham's in places, is comically noisy: '… ships, horns/Blasting the sky/With gargantuan flatulence' yet the atmosphere generated by this poem ('Hogmanay') is cold and depressing. I hope that his control and fluency doesn't lull him into believing that he is the best Roman Catholic confessioneer since Robert Lowell, and too many lugubrious self-reflecting observations might prove wearing after a while. But somehow I think Friel will preserve his hard eye, and not ...


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